Though Penn Libraries collects in many areas of psychology there is a particular focus to collect within the areas of cognitive psychology, sensation and perception, biological psychology, learning, motivation, emotion, personality, experimental psychopathology, social psychology, individual differences, positive psychology, and developmental psychology. The department boasts the world's first psychological clinic founded in 1896, the development of clinical psychology as a specialization, and laid the foundation for positive psychology.
The University's psychology collection is housed primarily in the Van Pelt and the Biomedical Library. Much of the psychological content falls within the BF range of the library. Researchers may also find interest in other areas of the collection such as Ethics (BJ); Public Aspects of Medicine (RA); Statistics (HA) and the Social Sciences (the H classifications).
Within the Kislak Center for Special Collections, researchers can request access to the papers of several influential psychologists and/or those who have impacted the psychological sciences.
- Samuel Weiller Fernberger (1887-1956) was a Penn Psychology professor focused on psychophysics. He made donated much of his research to the library including several rare books and manuscripts that were deposited in Special Collections.
- Margaret Naumburg (1890-1983) was an American psychologist who was one of the first proponents of art therapy, she used art as a method for diagnosis and therapy.
- Vera Dreiser (1908-1998) was a clinical psychologist and served as the head of the Psychiatric Treatment Center at the California Institute for Women until 1972; she helped promote psychology of everyday life.
- Paul Lowinger (1923-) was an American psychiatrist and founded the Institute of Social Medicine and Community Health. Lowinger was affiliated with the Radical Caucus of the American Psychiatric Association, a group of left-wing psychiatrists who aimed to apply new social consciousness to the psychiatric profession.
- May Sinclair (1863-1946) was a British author, who produced three psychological novels including The Three Sisters, Mary Olivier, and the Life and Death of Harriett Frean; in these novels she explores the female psyche and its destruction caused by the hypocrisies of Victorian social structure.
- Henry Seybert (1801-1883), a University of Pennsylvania professor created a Penn endowment on the condition that the University appoint a commission to investigate "all systems of morals, religion, or philosophy which assume to represent the truth, and particularly of modern spiritualism." The Seybert Commission investigated modern spiritualism including various mediums who claimed to channel spirits.
- The Millennium Watch Institute collection contains prophetic literature from assorted doomsday cults, UFO societies, anti-government militias, and religious groups.
- Benjamin Rush (1745-1813), a prominent figure in early American history, taught chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania. Penn Libraries holds 34 medical science student notebooks that contain Rush's lecture notes including several lectures dedicated to topics of psychology and psychological disorders.
Penn's special collections can also be used for psychological exploration. In 2016 Dr. Deborah Thorpe collaborated with child psychologists to understand the child-drawn doodles found in the margins of a 14th century medieval manuscript LJS 361 (folio 22s, 23r, 26r). These drawings provide insight into the minds' of young children from several centuries ago. To uncover more collections see Kislak Center's finding aids and also see other special collections held by Penn Libraries.